The future of powered human exoskeletons may well have had its fair share of coverage on the military front – the hope is such robotics will allow soldiers and military personnel to carry extra large loads - but for now exoskeleton robots are playing a vital role in healthcare. The ReWalk, developed by an Israeli engineer who himself suffers from paralysis, is one such device, an exoskeleton that is giving paraplegic patients a new-found freedom and granting a better quality of life by gifting those afflicted with paraplegia the ability to walk again.
Developed by an Israeli engineer who himself suffers from paralysis, several of the ReWalk robots have been generously donated (each would typically cost $85,000) to the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California and is already causing a welcome stir for its patients. Fitted with the exoskeleton system, paraplegics are free to walk unaided with its guidance and are able to do some of the daily tasks that most of us take for granted without a second’s pause for thought (getting in and out of a car, climbing stairs, walking down the street).
Though the ReWalk is for the moment limited only to use by paraplegics in a medical environment, the researchers are planning to get the robot approved for home use soon, while the hope is that the device will cater for patients paralysed from the neck down in the near future. Where artificial retinal implants are restoring vision for the blind and ever-more sophisticated prosthetics are lending a helping hand to amputees, the Rewalk is another harrowing example of technology genuinely making a dramatic, life-changing impact on people’s lives for the better. Remarkable.